2nd UPDATE, 10:31 AM: FCC chairman Tom Wheeler is determined to get the more than 125 stations owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group back on Dish Network ASAP. With the biggest blackout ever in effect as of last night, today he called both sides to the table to work out a new retransmission deal.
“I have directed the Media Bureau to convene an emergency meeting with Dish and Sinclair to get to the bottom of the dispute and bring back local programming to consumers,” said Wheeler in a statement Wednesday. “The parties will have until midnight to file their views.” Sources tell Deadline that both Dish, which sought injunctive relief from the FCC over the dispute late Tuesday, and Sinclair have said they will comply. The sitdown is scheduled to happen today. In the meantime, even with Wheeler’s rare action in such matters, the blackout continues.
Here is the full statement from Wheeler:
Today, I have directed the Media Bureau to convene an emergency meeting with DISH and Sinclair to get to the bottom of the dispute and bring back local programming to consumers. The parties will have until midnight to file their views.
The public interest is the Commission’s responsibility. We will not stand idly by while millions of consumers in 79 markets across the country are being denied access to local programming. The Commission will always act within the scope of its authority if it emerges that improper conduct is preventing a commercial resolution of the dispute.
Just last year, Congress instructed the Commission to look closely at whether retransmission consent negotiations are being conducted in good faith. That’s why I have proposed to my fellow Commissioners a new rulemaking to determine how best to protect the public interest. The facts surrounding this dispute inform our findings in that proceeding, but we will not wait to act on behalf of consumers.
UPDATE, 5:57 AM: The shouting match continued today, with the two companies releasing conflicting statements regarding the blackout.
“We have agreed to rates and all terms to carry Sinclair’s local stations,” Dish SVP of programming Warren Schlichting said in a statement. “But Sinclair is blacking out 129 local stations in an effort to negotiate a carriage agreement for an unrelated cable channel that it hopes to acquire, but does not own today.”
Sinclair EVP and general counsel Barry Faber returned fire in a statement: “Dish, which is reported to have engaged in more recent station blackouts than any other MVPD, is simply trying to spin the facts in an apparent effort to make a political statement. While Sinclair, unlike Dish, is not interested in negotiating this transaction in the press, Sinclair remains willing to negotiate a fair deal with Dish.”
PREVIOUS, TUESDAY PM: Nine days after Sinclair Broadcast Group and Dish Network extended their deadline for a retransmission agreement, the company’s 150-plus stations are gone from the satcaster in 79 markets nationwide. Maryland-based Sinclair’s stations include affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and the CW, and with the fall TV season approaching — and the NFL regular season a mere 16 days away — the stakes are high. Sinclair last month re-upped is affiliate deal with CBS, which carries Sunday pro football games.
Sinclair’s contract with the Colorado-based Dish expired August at 11:59 p.m. ET , and the blackout hit at 5 PM ET on Tuesday. The two companies have tangled before, settling a 2012 fee dispute without service disruptions. Sinclair also had down-to-the-wire retrans talks with DirecTV in 2013 and Time Warner Cable in 2011. For its part, Dish blacked out Turner-owned channels for a month last year and Fox News Channel for three-plus weeks in December and January.
Sinclair owns stations mainly in smaller markets, most in the South and Midwest, but it also owns outlets in such top 25 markets as KOMO Seattle-Tacoma, KNDL St. Louis and KATU Portland — all ABC affiliates — and the CW affil WUCW Minneapolis-St. Paul.